Pros: Non-stick; useful shape/size; handle; heats up quickly
Cons: No lid; non-stick coating comes off even with care
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
First published 12/30/2000
We really did like our Joyce Chen stirfry pan. It was a fantastic shape – flat on the bottom, with gently curved sides. It could hold a decent amount of food; we didn’t have the old problem of stirring things and having stuff spill out of the pan. We cook a lot, and for more than just ourselves, so decent size is important to us.
The non-stick coating was nice. Just a small spray of cooking oil and off we went; it meant we didn’t need quite as much oil in our food. It wasn’t so non-stick, however, that food would slide down immediately, so it was capable of browning things a bit. It was a fairly thin pan so it heated up quickly, which is often useful in a stir-fry pan.
But it wasn’t perfect. For one, it didn’t come with a lid, and a stir-fry pan is difficult to top with aluminum foil. Worst of all, though, it didn’t take that long before the non-stick coating became pock-marked in places. And then more places. And more. It never really seemed to flake off in chunks, thank goodness (although maybe not thank goodness – if it had flaked off in obvious chunks we would have been smarter and replaced it sooner). But on the other hand, the coating over those little pock marks had to be going somewhere.
We now have two other pans that, together, we believe cover all the functions of the Joyce Chen pan, with none of the drawbacks.
One is a Scanpan skillet. It’s fairly non-stick, but it’s a bonded surface, not a coating, so it doesn’t come off in your food. It has higher sides than most skillets, so it holds lots of food. It isn’t quite as slick so it needs a little more oil, but not too much. It also comes with a nice glass lid, and it can handle metal implements without getting damaged. The only way in which it’s possibly inferior is that it heats up much more slowly, so you can’t use it for quick-heating dishes. On the other hand it heats much more evenly, so it’s good for other dishes that the Joyce Chen pan wasn’t.
The other is a Calphalon Hard-Anodized Aluminum Wok. It has the nice sloped sides of the Joyce Chen pan for stir-frying, it has a lid, and it’s remarkably non-stick with just a teensy bit of oil, again without a non-stick coating to come off in your food. It’s also much thicker, but once it heats up it gets nice and hot for stir-frying. Perhaps the only down-side is that it will only work on a gas stovetop – not on an electric range. It doesn’t have that flat bottom for sitting on an electric burner.
So yes, there are uses for a Joyce Chen stir-fry pan. It heats up quickly, cleans easily, fits plenty of food, has a convenient shape, is inexpensive, and has a fairly good non-stick surface. But is it really worth having that non-stick coating come off in your food? I think not. I prefer spending some extra money (yes, both the Scanpan and the wok are definitely more expensive) for both lack of worry and long-lasting staying power. After all, if you have to replace your Joyce Chen pan every year, then it won’t be long before you could have bought that wok instead for the same amount of money.